California Road Trip: 3 Adventure-filled Routes to Yosemite
If you’re hoping to hop in the car and explore Yosemite National Park this summer, we’ve put together adventure-filled road trip itineraries from three of California’s travel hubs—Los Angeles, San Francisco and Lake Tahoe. These unforgettable routes highlight some of the best hiking, whitewater rafting and hidden gems along the way, as well as insider info on how to make the most of your time in Yosemite.
Sure, you could head straight to the park and spend your entire vacation there, but with all of the eclectic towns and recreational opportunities nestled in the Sierra Nevada, don’t miss the chance to slow down and enjoy a classic road trip experience filled with plenty of outdoor adventure. Explore the routes below.
As tourism restrictions fluctuate in many states and counties due to the COVID-19 pandemic, be sure to review local health department updates and guidelines before traveling and keep in mind the potential impacts you may have on the communities you travel through.
1) Los Angeles Road Trip: Eastern Sierra to Yosemite Loop
Recommended trip length: 8 to 10 days | Mileage: ~800 miles
On this action-packed trip you’ll explore the road less traveled from Los Angeles to the granite wonderland of Yosemite National Park and back. Hike in the shadows of Mount Whitney, hit the single track at Mammoth Mountain, and search for hidden hot springs as you venture through California’s majestic Eastern Sierra. Then, spend a few days visiting the best sights and spots in the park before tackling wild Class IV+ rapids on a Tuolumne River rafting trip in Yosemite’s backyard.
2) San Francisco to Yosemite: The Ultimate California Road Trip for Adventure-lovers
Recommended trip length: 7 to 10 days | Mileage: ~500 miles
This adventurous itinerary combines some of California’s best whitewater rafting with the full Yosemite National Park experience. You’ll get your feet wet on a South Fork American River rafting trip and tackle Tunnel Chute on the Middle Fork of the American River before winding through the charming towns along California’s Historic Highway 49. From there, stop to raft the exciting, Class IV+ Tuolumne River before experiencing the wonders of Yosemite for a few days. The finale is a day of rollercoaster rapids on a Merced River rafting trip.
3) California Road Trip: Tahoe to Yosemite Loop
Recommended trip Length: 7-10 days | Mileage: ~480 miles
This iconic California road trip takes you from the mesmerizing blue waters of Lake Tahoe to the raging waterfalls of Yosemite National Park and back in an epic loop through the Sierra Nevada. You’ll paddle the crystal clear waters of Emerald Bay, and spend a fun-filled day (or two!) rafting on the South Fork of the American River, before winding your way through the quaint Gold Rush towns that lead to the park. Depending on how much time you have, plan to spend 1- to 3- days in Yosemite, before exploring the scenic open road of the Eastern Sierra.
For more road trip inspiration, check out our library of itineraries from some of the West’s biggest travel hubs.
Please remember to travel responsibly & always
Leave No Trace in any area you’re visiting.
Photos: Yosemite Road Trip – Wanderlove; Mountain biking in Mammoth – Mammoth Mountain Resort; South Fork American River rafting – James Kaiser; Paddling on Lake Tahoe – Justin Anderson